Chapter 13 : Chapter Twelve: Dinner At The Zabini's.
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Hermione had woken up hung over and full of shame. She got up extra early to get out of Draco’s house before he could see her. She wanted to avoid discussion of the night before. She didn’t want him picking on her for acting emotional and jealous of Astoria. She was hoping he was still out for a run like the morning before. But as she snuck downstairs, he sat at the kitchen island with his tea and breakfast, reading the Daily Prophet.
“Hi,” Hermione said quickly, her voice cracking. She rolled her eyes at herself. She had a knee jerk reaction to seeing him. Her plan to play it cool failed before it even began.
A shirtless Draco looked up from the paper. “Good morning.”
Hermione poured herself some tea and tried to drink it as quickly as possible. She felt her tonsils burn and spluttered hot tea everywhere.
Draco quickly stood up and walked over to where she was coughing. “Are you alright?” he asked, patting her on the back.
She brushed him off and nodded, her face red from practically choking on the tea. “Fine,” she gasped. “I’m fine.”
Draco took a cautious step back. He watched as she tried to dry the tea off of her blouse. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine. Why wouldn’t I be fine?” she snapped.
Draco put his hands up in surrender. Her eyes quickly darted to the tattoo on his left arm. “I’m just asking. You had quite a bit to drink last night.”
“Oh? And you didn’t?”
“I did, too, I admit.”
Hermione turned back to the counter and began mopping up the spilled tea. “And I wasn’t jealous, just so you know,” she added defensively.
Draco smirked. “Of course you weren’t.”
Hermione spun back around to face him. “I wasn’t. This,” she said, motioning back and forth between them, “isn’t even real. I have no emotional attachment to you, Draco. I just want you to understand that.”
“No, of course not. Why would I?”
Draco shrugged. “No reason. I was just clarifying.”
“So I should have left you passed out on the bench outside last night is what you’re telling me?”
Hermione tried to ignore him as she finished cleaning up. “Yes. That is what I’m telling you.”
Draco nodded. “I’ll remember that for next time.”
“Good,” she muttered. She put the teacup in the sink, grabbed her suitcase, and left the house. She shut the door behind her, slumping against it and closing her eyes in horror. Her stupid pride had taken over again. She had just made a bad situation worse. She began to hate herself because deep down she knew that Draco and her had taken one step forward last night, and she had just dragged them both ten steps back.
Harry and Ginny arrived at Draco’s house in the afternoon. Draco was sitting on the couch, reading Teddy a story, when a knock sounded at the front door. Teddy slid off of the couch and ran to the foyer. Draco stood up and followed him.
He pulled open the door and stood back to let Teddy jump into Ginny’s arms. “Oh, I missed you,” she said. She kissed him on the head and stood up. “Hey, Draco.”
“Hey. Come on in,” he said, motioning for them to come inside.
Harry and Ginny exchanged glances. Harry rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he said in response to Ginny’s pleading look.
Draco smirked and closed the door behind them. They took off their shoes and walked into the large drawing room.
“You have a gorgeous home, Draco,” Ginny said in awe.
Harry nodded in agreement. “Really nice.”
“Thank you,” Draco said. “Can I get you something to drink or eat?”
“No, thank you,” Harry said.
“Draco, we can’t thank you enough for watching Teddy,” Ginny said. “We really, really appreciate it.”
“It was no problem. Honestly. We both had a really good time.”
Teddy nodded in agreement. “I bought Auntie Mione a present!”
Draco wanted to groan in response. He was pretty sure Harry and Ginny would realize that a sapphire necklace cost more than three knuts.
“You did?” Ginny said, smiling. “What did you buy her?”
Teddy stood up. “Is it still in the secret hiding place?” he asked Draco. Draco nodded, smiling. Teddy ran into Draco’s room and flipped open the chest next to his bed. He ran back downstairs with the wrapped box. He handed it to Ginny. “It was three knuts and I paid for it myself with Uncle Harry’s change in the couch!”
Harry laughed. “That’s awesome Teddy. But what is it?”
Ginny flipped the box over. “That’s really nice, Teddy.”
“Open it!” he urged, jumping up and down. “Malfoy can wrap it again!”
Harry and Ginny looked at Draco who shrugged. “It’s true. I can wrap it again.”
Ginny laughed. “It’s okay.” She handed it to Teddy. I’ll see it when Hermione opens it on her birthday.”
“Speaking of which,” Harry said. “We got your mother’s invitation for Saturday.”
“Ah. That’s right. The dinner.”
“Is it alright with you if we come? We don’t want to intrude,” Ginny said.
“It’s no intrusion, at all. Please. You’re more than welcome.”
“Thank you,” Ginny said.
“Well, we should be going,” Harry said, standing up. “Thanks again for everything.”
Draco nodded and stood up as well. Ginny stood up and Teddy gave Draco the box. “Put it in the secret hiding place again,” Teddy whispered.
“Will do,” Draco whispered back.
Ginny smiled. “Alright Teddy, do you have everything? Say bye to Draco.”
Teddy hugged Draco around the legs. “Thank you Malfoy. I love you.”
All three adults froze before Draco smiled and bent down to pick up Teddy. He wrapped his arms around the five year old and squeezed. “I love you too, kid. I’ll see you Saturday.” He put Teddy down and sighed. Teddy ran to hold Harry’s hand.
“Bye, Malfoy!” Teddy said as they started toward the door.
“Bye, Teddy Bear.”
“Thanks again,” Ginny said.
“Yeah, thanks, Malfoy,” Harry said.
He nodded. “See you,” Draco said. He held the door open for them and watched them apparate out of sight.
He went back into the drawing room and threw himself on the couch. Spending a couple days with a five year old was exhausting. But he was happier than anything else that he got to know Teddy because sometimes, as a child, he remembered wishing he had known his cousin Tonks. It was too late for that now, unfortunately. So spending time with Teddy was the next best thing.
He closed his eyes and all his anger from earlier came rushing back to him. Hermione had frustrated him beyond measure that morning. He had told her he cared about her and she tells him that she has no feelings for him at all this morning. He had put himself out there and admitted to being attracted to her in order to calm her drunken emotional state and she says that she has no attachment to him whatsoever. To say that his pride wasn’t hurt would be a lie. Everyday he opened up more and more to Hermione, and everyday she retreated further and further away from him.
He wanted to be her friend. It was the least they could be if they were going through this together. They were pretending to date and she still protected her pride above all else. If she wanted to play that game, then he could as well. He was a fool for enjoying their banter and teasing. This was a business deal after all. They were both benefiting from this “relationship”. That was all. Hermione was right. There shouldn’t be any emotional attachment. He had to keep it professional.
Hermione woke up on Thursday morning feeling anxious and embarrassed. Monday night had been humiliating enough with her getting drunk and emotional all over Draco, and Tuesday had made it worse. She had been able to ignore it for the past couple of days because she hadn’t seen or heard from Draco after she left for work on Tuesday morning, but she was going to spend the evening with him and his friends at Zabini’s house without having properly talked about what had conspired between them in front of the bonfire and in the kitchen the morning after.
She covered her face in her hands and groaned loudly. Tuesday morning had been awkward and uncomfortable enough to last a lifetime. She had no idea how they would act tonight. Would they be able to act normal enough to convince a new set of people that they were actually together?
Hermione thought about going to see Draco. She knew that he had finished his work shift last night around six. But the thought of seeing Draco made her stomach drop. She couldn’t face him after her outburst. He was only nice to her and she treated him horribly.
So instead of seeing Draco, Hermione went to work, hoping that everything would work itself out by the dinner party.
Hermione sat at her desk two hours later and pulled out the Lucius Malfoy file. She had sent in the official copies of the release forms the day before and everything was set in order. Lucius Malfoy would be released from Azkaban tomorrow at nine o’clock in the morning.
A note landed on Hermione’s desk. She picked it up and was surprised to see Draco’s handwriting.
I know you’re at work. I just wanted to tell you that I’ll be picking you up from your place at 6:50 tonight.
6:50? That didn’t give them much time to talk before dinner. She picked up a piece of parchment and a quill and wrote a note back.
I get home at five. Want to come by earlier and catch up a bit so we can feel prepared for tonight?
She sent the letter off with a Ministry owl and waited. Half an hour later, another note landed on her desk.
6:50 should be fine. See you then.
Hermione stared at the note. She decided against writing back, figuring it would be useless. She began finishing the small pile of work on her desk, and by five o’clock, she was heading home.
The first thing she did was head to her closet to pick something out. She knew that the dinner was formal. But how formal? Did she have to wear an evening gown or a cocktail dress? She dreaded showing up underdressed, especially since she knew how Astoria and Pansy were. Hermione pulled out a low cut, dark green cocktail dress that had sleeves that went down to her elbows. She had never worn it and the tag proved it to be a size too small. She groaned, staring at the dress a little longer. It wouldn’t hurt anything but her self-esteem to try to fit into it.
She unzipped the back of the dress and stepped into it. It felt like it was shrinking around her thighs the more she pulled it up. She sucked in her stomach and pulled a little harder. She heard thread snapping. She ignored it. The dress finally settled above her hips. She slid her arms into the sleeves and zipped up the back of the dress. The cut in the back of the dress came down to her mid-back. If this wasn’t the classiest, most revealing dress she’d ever owned, her name was not Hermione Granger.
She slid into a pair of pointy nude pumps and began filling her nude clutch with her keys, wand, wallet, and lip balm. She began pinning her hair up into a loose, low bun, and touched up her makeup. She added extra eyeliner and began smudging it. She looked at her reflection and rolled her eyes. Impressing people was not her forte unless it came to her brain. She knew that no matter how hard she tried with dressing up, Pansy and Astoria would beat her in that category every time.
She sat on her bed for the next hour, waiting for Draco. She was relieved when her dress didn’t rip at the seams. The closer the time got to 6:50, the more nervous Hermione became. She was grateful that he hadn’t come earlier. She didn’t know what to say to him. She wanted to apologize but she didn’t know how to go about it.
At 6:50 she heard a crack outside her bedroom. She sighed and stood up, smoothing out her dress. She walked to her bedroom door and put her hand on the doorknob. She took a deep breath and counted to ten. She pulled open the door and left the room.
Draco wasn’t in the sitting room or entrance hall. She turned into the kitchen and saw him standing there, looking extremely handsome in a grey suit, white shirt, and black tie. He paused when he saw her. He cleared his throat. “Can I pour myself some water?” he asked.
Hermione looked confused. “Why are you asking? Of course you can.” She put her clutch down and turned to look at her reflection in the microwave door. She began fussing with her hair.
Draco pulled a large glass out of the cupboard and went to the sink. “Ready to go?”
Hermione straightened up and turned to look at him. His back was to her as he filled the glass up with tap water. “I have a pitcher full of water in the fridge, Draco.”
He shrugged. “I didn’t want to be rude.”
“By opening my fridge?”
“Without asking, yeah.”
Hermione put her hands on her hips. “Since when?”
Draco turned around and brought the glass to his lips. “What do you mean?”
“You come over and pour yourself cereal and make yourself tea all the time. Why all of the sudden you get all coy on me?”
Draco shrugged. “I just don’t want to be rude.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “You’re just weird.”
“I just think we should keep this fake relationship strictly platonic, and we can’t be platonic if I act like this is my house or treat you like we’re actually romantic in private.”
Hermione froze, regret washing over her. This was her fault. “Oh. Okay, that makes sense.” She stopped and took a deep breath. “Draco, does this have something to do with Tuesday morning?”
Draco feigned confusion. “Tuesday morning?”
“Never mind,” Hermione sighed. She grabbed her clutch and turned around and left the kitchen. “Ready to go? We’re going to be late.”
Draco followed her into the entryway and held his hand out for her to take. She looked at it for a beat and put her hand in his. They apparated. When their feet hit the ground again, they were standing in front of a giant, iron-wrought gate. Draco quickly dropped Hermione’s hand and tapped the gate with his wand. The gate dissolved and Draco stepped through, walking quickly to the front door. Hermione struggled to follow through the gravel walkway in her heels.
“Ow,” she yelped when her ankle twisted to the side.
Draco stopped and turned to look at her. “Are you okay?” He watched as Hermione was bent over trying to pull her heel out of the gravel. She winced. Draco stepped toward her and put a hand on her elbow. “Are you hurt?”
Hermione finally managed to pull her foot up. She brushed Draco off of her and stood to her full height. “I’m fine.” She pulled her wand out of her clutch and muttered a healing spell at her ankle. She put her wand back in her clutch and snapped it shut again. “Let’s go.”
They finally made it to the front door and Draco knocked. A house elf opened the door and bowed. “It’s an honor to see you Master Malfoy.”
“Thank you, Finzy.” Draco continued to the drawing room, Hermione walked quickly behind him. She pulled on Draco’s arm just as he was about to push open the drawing room door. He stopped and looked at her.
“What?” he asked.
“You’re stressing me out,” Hermione whispered. “I don’t know how the hell to act, and you’re not making it any better right now.”
Just as Draco opened his mouth to retort, the drawing room door was pulled open. “Oy!” Blaise said. “I thought I heard voices. Please, come on in!”
Draco gave Hermione a look before grabbing her hand and pulling her through the door. Pansy and Astoria were seated with another man. He stood when they walked through the door. Hermione didn’t recognize him.
He approached the two of them with an extended hand. “Daniel Richards,” he said, shaking Draco’s hand. When Hermione extended her hand to shake his, he held it and brought it to his lips.
“Draco Malfoy. And this is my girlfriend Hermione Granger,” Draco said, eyeing Daniel as he kissed the back of Hermione’s fingers.
“Pleasure,” he said, looking at Hermione.
“The pleasure’s mine,” she said. He was a good looking man; tall and rugged with dark features. He was Draco’s negative. Hermione was flattered.
Draco grabbed Hermione’s hand when Daniel finally gave it back to Hermione.
“Daniel is Astoria’s new boyfriend,” Pansy said from across the room. “They met while working on a project together. He went to Durmstrang even though he’s British. Isn’t that funny?”
Draco walked toward the two sitting women. “Hilarious,” he muttered. “It’s good to see the both of you.”
Astoria gave Draco a dazzling smile. She was wearing a pale pink chiffon cocktail dress that was so short, Hermione felt scandalized. “It’s good to see you, too, Drake.” She stood up and kissed him on both cheeks. She completely ignored Hermione who was literally attached to Draco by the hand.
“You remember Hermione?” Draco asked.
Astoria grudgingly brought her attention to Hermione. She gave her a once over and nodded. “Pleasure,” she said, looking as though she had just sucked on a lemon.
Hermione only smiled in response.
Pansy stood up and also kissed Draco on the cheek. She gave Hermione the fakest smile she had ever seen. “I’m glad you could make it,” she said.
“Thank you for the invitation,” Hermione replied.
Blaise and Daniel joined the four of them. Blaise put a hand on Hermione’s shoulder. “So, how have you been since you left Hogwarts? Draco says you’re a barrister with the Ministry.” Draco cocked an eyebrow. He was sure he never told Blaise that.
“It’s true. I am.”
Daniel came around to stand in front of Hermione and next to Astoria. “That’s amazing. Do you enjoy it?”
Hermione shrugged. “It could be exciting at times,” she smiled.
“I have a cousin in the Ministry. Maybe you know him? Marcus Flannigan.”
Hermione racked her brain for a moment. “I don’t think I do.”
Daniel grinned. “Well, the Ministry is rather large.”
Hermione smiled back. “It really is.”
Astoria sighed. “So, is there any champagne?”
Pansy turned toward the bar. “Indeed, there is.” she said, turning to face the group holding a bottle in her hand.
“Perfect,” Astoria said.
“I prefer something a little stronger,” Blaise said with a wink. “How about you guys?” He walked up to the bar and pulled out a bottle of Dragon Barrel Brandy. Draco made a face and Blaise laughed. “Oh right. Sorry mate. I forgot about your bad experience.”
Astoria gave a tinkling laugh. “Oh, I remember that! You were so drunk that I had to hide you in my bed because you didn’t want your parents to see you like that!”
Draco gave an uncomfortable laugh. “Yeah, I don’t remember that night too well, as you can imagine.”
“I remember now!” Pansy laughed. “You were all over Astoria that night at the bar. You kept trying to take her dress off.”
Hermione smiled. “Nice,” she muttered.
Draco cleared his throat awkwardly and let go of her hand. “So when is dinner being served?”
“We figured we’d have a late dinner. It’ll give us some time to catch up,” Pansy said sweetly.
Astoria ran her right hand through her hair and Draco froze. She was still wearing the engagement ring. Hermione looked at Daniel, grasping at the only person in the room who wasn’t a Slytherin while she was a Gryffindor.
“So, Daniel, how did you like Durmstrang?”
Daniel accepted the brandy from Blaise and sipped it before addressing her question. “I really liked it. But it made summer holiday difficult when everyone in my neighborhood had gone to Hogwarts.”
“I can imagine,” Hermione said.
“What can I get you, Hermione?” Blaise asked, interrupting the two of them.
Hermione turned to face him. “Um…I’m good. Thank you.”
Blaise looked surprised. “You’re going to go through this entire dinner sober? The infamous Gryffindor courage strikes again.”
Hermione laughed. She liked Blaise. “I’ll just have some water if that’s okay.”
“Not a problem,” Blaise said, turning to get her a glass.
“So,” Daniel said, getting Hermione’s attention again. “I heard you dated Viktor.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “That’s right. You were probably the same year.”
Daniel nodded, smiling. “He was actually my roommate.”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “Small world!”
Daniel laughed. “It really is. He was crazy about you, I remember that.”
Astoria rolled her eyes. “I’m shocked,” she muttered sarcastically under her breath.
“He was a good guy,” Hermione said, smiling. “Do you keep up with him? How is he?”
“I do, actually. He’s good. He still plays on the Bulgarian national team.”
“I can’t imagine him not playing quidditch. It was his life.”
“Why don’t we talk about something more interesting?” Pansy interjected.
Hermione raised her eyebrows and turned to look at Pansy. “By all means,” she said.
Blaise walked awkwardly between the two women, handing Hermione her glass of water. Hermione accepted it with a smile.
“I just mean that I don’t want to annoy Draco with all this talk about your ex. He might get jealous,” Pansy clarified, winking at Draco.
Hermione forced a smile. “Of course. You’re right,” she said tightly.
“I’m getting really hungry,” Draco said suddenly. “So when is dinner being served again?”
“Soon,” Pansy said shortly. She turned back to Hermione. “So Hermione, how is it being Draco’s girlfriend?”
“Fantastic,” Hermione replied. She began drinking her water, avoiding eye contact.
“I bet,” Pansy winked.
Draco glared at Pansy. “Let me get a whiskey if you have it, mate.”
Blaise nodded and headed to the bar again. He walked back quickly with a glass full of whiskey.
“Uh oh,” Pansy teased. “Careful. You might try to undress Hermione this time.”
Hermione laughed uncomfortably. Draco downed half of the glass in one gulp.
“Not that she has much to take off,” Astoria muttered.
Hermione looked down at her dress. It was low cut, sure, but at least her ass wasn’t constantly on the verge of being on display the way that Astoria’s was in that dress. Draco must have been thinking the same thing because Hermione saw him glance at her legs from the corner of her eye. Monday night came rushing back to her and she felt the shadow of jealousy envelope her for a fraction of a second.
“So,” Daniel said uncomfortably, “About that dinner…?”
Pansy huffed in annoyance. “Fine! We can go in to eat now since everyone is so bloody impatient.” She began heading toward the dining room. Daniel followed. Astoria grabbed Draco’s hand and forced him to follow as well.
Blaise and Hermione exchanged looks. “Please tell me dinner with the Potters was worse than this.”
Hermione laughed. “I’m sorry. You guys take the cake.”
Blaise groaned. “I’m really sorry.”
She shook her head. “It’s not a problem. I figured the night would go like this and lucky for me, it hasn’t even begun.”
“Draco’s going to kill me tomorrow.”
Hermione shrugged and began walking with Blaise. “He’ll get over it. It’s all part of the act,” she whispered conspiratorially.
They entered the dining room. Draco was sitting next to Astoria at the table. Pansy was sitting at the head of the table next to him. Daniel was sitting next to Astoria at the other end of the table. The only two spots left were across from Astoria and Draco. Draco looked apologetically at Hermione.
“I’m stealing your boyfriend for the night,” Astoria said teasingly. “I’ve missed him.”
Hermione smiled. “Please, go ahead. I have him every night. It would be selfish of me not to share.” Astoria’s fake smile was wiped off of her face in a second.
Blaise held out the seat next to Daniel and across from Astoria for Hermione. He figured it would be better to seat Hermione next to someone who actually would speak to her pleasantly than next to Pansy. Hermione smiled at Blaise and sat down. Pansy shot him a death glare. House elves brought out their first entrees and set them in front of them.
“Isn’t Draco boring?” Pansy said suddenly and dramatically, picking up her soupspoon and leaning forward to taste it.
Hermione looked up. “I’m sorry?”
Pansy looked satisfied with the soup. She put her spoon down. “I said, isn’t Draco boring?”
Draco looked between Pansy and Hermione. “Pansy, where are you going with this?”
Pansy smirked. “I’m just wondering how someone as lively as Granger can settle with someone as boring and sterile as you. You’re so cold, Draco. Oh, don’t act like this is news to you,” she laughed, noticing a shadow of an affronted expression on his face. Draco Malfoy was never one to wear his heart on his sleeve.
Hermione decided to cut in. “He’s not boring at all. He’s actually the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. It’s actually more surprising that he puts up with me.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Astoria asked.
Blaise hid his grin behind his hand.
“Nothing’s wrong with her,” Draco interjected sharply.
Astoria raised her eyebrows at his tone. She cleared her throat. “What do you think of my dress Draco?” She began playing with the hem of her short skirt.
Draco’s eyes caught the movement without his meaning to. “It’s nice,” he said quickly, focusing on his soup again. This night was a disaster.
The house elves came into the room again to clear the soup bowls and replaced them with salads. Pansy took one look at the salads and sighed in exasperation. “I said romaine! Not iceberg lettuce!” She handed her plate back to the house elf by her elbow. “Take it back. Take them all back,” she ordered, snapping her fingers. The elves immediately obeyed.
Draco caught Hermione’s eye. She was livid and Draco knew she was going to say something and it wasn’t going to be pretty.
“You don’t have to be so rude to them. They’re going to do as you say regardless, so the threatening tone renders itself useless, really.”
Four sets of mouths popped open. “Excuse me?” Pansy said disbelievingly.
“I said, you’re making an ass of yourself by being rude to poor, defenseless creatures and you should stop.”
“Okay,” Draco said, standing up. “We’re not coming back from that, so I think we should be going.”
Hermione looked at him. “Why? I’m sure Pansy is fully capable of taking some constructive criticism.”
Pansy was a dangerous shade of red. “Oh, but of course,” she said between her teeth. “Please, Draco. Sit down.”
Draco looked around the room. Blaise winked at him. He was enjoying this night too much. Draco shook his head and sat back down. It was downhill from there.
“So, Astoria,” Hermione said. “How long have you and Daniel been together?”
Astoria and Daniel exchanged looks. “Erm…a few weeks now.”
“Thank you,” Daniel said.
Hermione felt bad for the guy. He was dragged into the most uncomfortable dinner known to man. “Your ring is gorgeous, Astoria.”
Astoria looked at her right hand. Her engagement ring sat on her fourth finger. She smiled coyly at Draco before turning back to Hermione. “Thank you. Draco had actually gotten it for me when we were dating.”
“It’s lovely,” Hermione said genuinely. Because it was. Even if she was only wearing it as a jab to Hermione.
The house elves came out with new salads and placed them in front of everyone. “Thank you,” Hermione said, picking up her fork. They began to eat silently for a few moments before Pansy thought of something new to say.
“So is it true that Weasley left you for another woman?”
Draco choked on the water he was drinking.
Hermione finished chewing and swallowed her food leisurely before addressing Pansy’s invasive question. “No, it’s not. We broke up and then he started dating someone new.”
“But he dumped you.”
“Yes, I suppose.”
Pansy laughed lightly. “He must have had a good reason. Everyone believed you two would stay together forever.”
“Pansy,” Blaise warned in a low voice.
Hermione put a hand on Blaise’s arm. “No, it’s okay,” she said to him. “He did have a good reason. We grew apart. There was no point in dragging it out.”
“I see,” Pansy muttered.
“And now we’re very happy together, so can we change the subject?” Draco said, wiping his mouth with a napkin.
“Are you?” Pansy asked.
“Am I what?” Draco asked, annoyed.
“Happy? I mean, you’ve been kind of distant from her all night. Because, if I remember correctly, when you were with Astoria, you were always affectionate.”
Draco glanced at Hermione. She looked amused. “I’m very happy.”
“I’m sure you are,” she said. “I’m just saying that you don’t seem happy. You didn’t even insist on sitting next to her tonight.”
Draco wanted to strangle Pansy. He looked at Hermione again. She was playing with her silverware. He felt like an ass. “Pansy, please,” he muttered under his breath.
“What, Draco? I’m just being honest.”
“A little less honesty would be greatly appreciated.”
“Well, there can only be so many dishonest people at a table, Draco.”
Hermione and Draco froze. Blaise coughed and poured himself some water. “So Daniel,” he began quickly, “How’s the family business?”
Daniel seemed just as relieved as Hermione and Draco to be changing the subject. “It’s good. We just began investing in buildings, hoping to attract a younger demographic into moving into the flats. We want to have whole buildings full of magical tenants to create new communities within muggle communities.”
“That sounds fantastic,” Hermione said in awe. “That’s a very good business idea.”
“Thank you,” Daniel smiled. “I think it’s important to keep magical people together to form a sense of belonging.”
“Granger’s muggleborn. She probably doesn’t agree,” Pansy stated. Blaise rolled his eyes. The house elves had interrupted with the entrees, placing them in front of each guest.
“You’re muggleborn?” Daniel asked, astounded. “And you’re hanging around this lot?”
Hermione laughed. “Crazy, isn’t it?” She picked up her knife and fork and cut a small piece of chicken and popped it into her mouth.
“Hermione was the brightest witch of her age when we were in school,” Draco said proudly.
“I bet,” Daniel laughed. “It’s obvious you’re a clever thing.”
Hermione blushed. “I just enjoy studying. It didn’t come without hard work.”
“You’re being modest,” Draco chided.
It annoyed Hermione that Draco had began being nice after Pansy had pointed out how rude he was being. She chose to ignore him and continued eating.
The next several minutes were awkwardly quiet. They all ate, their silverware scraping against the porcelain china plates. Hermione and Draco both silently prayed that the night would end so they could go their separate ways. Everything was falling apart around them and they knew it. Pansy was going to be the end of them if it was the last thing she did.
Hermione put her fork and knife down. She looked around and noticed that Astoria had barely touched her food. Draco was intently studying his glass of whiskey, and Pansy and Blaise looked bored. Draco pushed his seat back and muttered something about toilets before walking out of the dining room. After a few moments, Daniel stood up.
“Excuse me for a moment,” he said quietly. Hermione watched his retreating back, wishing she were in his place and away from this crowd.
“Do you want to go after him?” Astoria teased. She had been watching Hermione, studying her.
Hermione startled. “Excuse me?”
Astoria gave her signature saucy smile. “I see the way you look at Daniel.”
“Daniel?” Hermione laughed. “You can’t be serious.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Because I’m with Draco.”
Astoria rolled her eyes. “What? You haven’t heard of going after someone else? You should understand, of all people, since your boyfriend did just that to you.”
Hermione took a deep, calming breath. “Listen. I’m sorry that Draco dumped you, and I know it must suck being in the same room as us, but you knew what you were getting yourself into when you agreed to come to this dinner.”
Blaise made a noise in the back of his throat, and Pansy interrupted. “I invited her. She’s my best friend.”
“And that’s wonderful for you both,” Hermione snapped. “But I’m not here to get cornered by the two of you. If you didn’t want to have me over for dinner then you shouldn’t have invited me. My friends treated Draco with respect and didn’t make snide comments about my ex to him the entire time we were at dinner.”
Draco suddenly walked briskly into the dining room looking livid. “Get up. We’re going home.”
Hermione gawked at him. “What?”
“Up, Hermione,” Draco ordered. “Get your bag. We’re leaving.”
Hermione pushed her chair back and stood up, looking around in confusion. Pansy, Astoria, and Blaise stood up as well, looking bewildered.
“What happened?” Pansy asked.
Draco glared at her and inhaled deeply, trying to reign in his anger. “I’m not feeling well. I’ll catch up with you guys another time.”
“But what about dessert?” Astoria pouted.
Blaise cleared his throat and interrupted. “Let me walk you out to the gate then.” He headed toward the door.
Hermione picked up her clutch and followed Blaise. “Where’s Daniel? I’d like to say bye to him.”
“He went home,” Draco muttered, grabbing her by the elbow and steering her out of the dining room and toward the front entrance.
They stepped outside the house and Blaise put a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “What happened?”
Draco growled in frustration. “Your bloody girlfriend happened.”
Blaise smirked. “You need to be more specific, mate.”
“She told Astoria to bring Daniel as her boyfriend in order to push him onto Hermione. Their plan was to have them end up in a closet somehow so I could catch them together.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Hermione gasped.
Blaise chuckled. “Daniel told you this?”
“Yeah, he followed me to the toilet, oddly enough. He said that he liked Hermione and didn’t want to put her in a compromising position.”
“No pun intended,” Blaise muttered. “Listen, mate, I’ll talk to Pansy. Granger gave them a good scolding, as well,” he added with a smirk. “I’m really sorry.”
Draco shook his head. “Not your fault.”
Blaise laughed at Hermione’s expression. “Draco saved you from quite the scandal, Granger.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Please. I wouldn’t be caught dead in any sort of compromising position, as you call it.”
Draco ran his hands through his hair. “Alright. We’re going to head home. I’ll see you.”
“See you,” Blaise said, patting Draco on the back. He leaned in and gave Hermione a kiss on the cheek. “Please, come back soon,” he joked.
Hermione smiled. “How about you come by us instead?”
“Goodnight,” Hermione said. She turned and headed toward the front gate and to the apparation point.
Draco shook Blaise’s hand and hurried to catch up to Hermione. “I’m sorry tonight was such a disaster,” Draco mumbled, tapping the gate with his wand and stepping back to let it dissolve.
“No, it’s not, Hermione. They were being rude, and it wasn’t fair to you.”
Hermione grabbed Draco’s arm, giving him the hint to hurry up and apparate. He brought them both back to her flat. She quickly let go and kicked off her shoes as she walked toward her bedroom. Draco followed behind her. He wouldn’t let this go.
“I’m going to go talk to them,” he promised.
Hermione zipped down the back of her dress and kicked open her door simultaneously. “I’m not worried about them,” she snapped, turning to look at Draco and holding her dress up to her chest. “I expected nothing less of Pansy Parkinson and Astoria Greengrass.”
“Then why are you so angry?” Draco demanded. He was standing in her bedroom, glaring at her.
Hermione opened her mouth to say everything that was threatening to overflow. She wanted to tell him that he disappointed her and hurt her and embarrassed her. His coldness and detachment to her when they were meant to stick together through this entire debacle devastated her. But instead, the thought of their conversation in her kitchen before the night had even began came rushing at her like a tidal wave. Platonic.
So when she opened her mouth, all that came out was, “I’m just tired. Thanks for accompanying me home. I’ll see you Saturday.”
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